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PSYCH 302: Research Methods in Psychology

Search Tips

Choosing your search terms:

There are synonyms for what you are trying to write about or related subjects that you can use to base your research on. If there aren’t then your topic is very likely too new and too obscure for a term paper for a course so definitely ask your professor. Some databases such as PsycINFO include a thesaurus tool.

Choosing your parameters:

Your instructor probably gave you some specific instructions to follow such as articles must be published in peer-reviewed journals published in the past five years.

I usually tell students to start with PSYCINFO because it is a database specifically focused on psychology and related behavioral science fields. This means you don’t have to sort through as much random stuff if you are specifically looking for psychology related topics. On the other hand, depending on how interdisciplinary your topic is it might mean you miss out on some resources that would help your project.

Advanced search:

Topic in choose field Anywhere

Limit to: “peer-reviewed”

Searching specific journals: look up the journal and click the option that has the most entries OR pub.Exact(“Journal title” OR “Second journal title”) AND

You can also add line after line of ISSN’s

Truncation is with a * and there’s a more complicated way to truncate too.

Library Quick Search

In the library catalog advanced search you have a variety of options to choose from such as searching for your terms by title and you can limit to where you search as well such as searching only certain journals by inputting their ISSN. You can also limit your search to peer reviewed journals. The library catalog likes to give results so you might have results that are only kind of or barely relevant and you need to tweak your search  to make sure you actually have enough content.

Overall tips:

  • Don’t worry about Full Text, it might be in another database or worse case scenario a few hours to a few days away via interlibrary loan
  • Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT are your friends as is truncation, which is usually with a * but check the database you are using.

Define and Refine Needs and Search Strategies Based on Search Results

Remember the ways to refine your search in PsycINFO:

  • Narrow your search by:
    • Peer reviewed
    • Source type
    • Publication date
    • Age group
    • Methodology


A yellow and a blue circle with a green overlap


OR: expands your search to both things you connect it with

Yellow, Green, Blue. Everything in the drawing

AND: limits your search to both things you connect with it

The overlapping area of the circles so just Green

NOT: limits your search to exclude what you specify

Research Methods Overview